Category Archives: Dining

EASTSIDE CHIPPERY STORY PART 1

So it’s been a few months since I’ve written a blog, interesting given that I’m a writer or more accurately, a storyteller. And when I think of what I do as storytelling I tell myself that I’ve been hard at work, because there are many ways to tell a story…

Background: After driving around the country for a few months, with my longtime friend Mike Munoz, I felt the need to do more than write about the human condition—I felt the need to be involved, as times have become such a sad state of affairs. There is great temptation at this very moment to delve into the woes of the world and our culture in particular, but I think at this juncture the readers of this humble (LOL) blogger would be better served by my restaurant tale “EASTSIDE CHIPPERY”.

As I traveled around this vast and beautiful country of ours I reached a point in my thoughts that I would take the first opportunity that presented itself to me as something to do in the most physical sense of being. However, the idea of a restaurant, anywhere, loomed large—given I’ve owned a few in the past in which I proved to have some prowess in the culinary arts. And philosophically I enjoy the idea of making something for people that they not only need, but also can elevate both body and soul—and even beyond that community can be built around.

How and why I found myself stranded in Washington DC is for another story, but suffice it to say that my road trip ended abruptly and I was on a plane headed for Los Angeles— my home in Downtown still occupied by tenants, my childhood home in Montebello calling to me to come take a rest. Well not a rest, the time had come to face many things, (mostly my own failings) and in the process of doing so I came to lease what was once a fast food restaurant (Taco Bell) on Beverly Blvd. in Montebello.

The concept was always to make some great fish n’ chips, burgers and high end coffee drinks, however as business plans tend to do this one evolved…Think European Café meets East LA. Along the way there was the obligatory partner who split with no notice and a variety of wacky events that included a blackout that lasted a day…Anyway, getting back into the world of real business has provided insight into the current state of American culture that no amount of intellectual examination could have.

Although there is too much to say with respect to all matters, which ensued subsequent to my takeover of the failed restaurant “Chela’s” and the process of transition to Eastside Chippery, I’d like to touch on a few almost absolutes:

The audacity of hope is meaningless when there is not a means to an end and or the lack of ability to achieve an end. Chela’s failed because it offered mediocre to bad food, gave small portions, and for good measure kept the shortest hours possible. I believed that great food, served in large portions, made available over the course of several more hours than not only Chela’s, but all of the neighboring restaurants established a solid means to an end.

There can be no success in a culture that does not value extremely hard work. And the hard work herein contemplated is both the hard work of developing a skill set and the implementation of the skills once acquired. So behind the Eastside Chippery brand I created a company called Mom’s Kitchen Café LLC, which translates in our kitchen to food made with love—from scratch, fresh, cooking for the pure enjoyment of feeding customers thought of as members of an extended family—NO SHORTCUTS!!! And anyone who really knows me, knows that when I say that, “I want things done right” I mean this to a degree very few people have ever contemplated!

Product, product, product, is the key to success. Continue reading

The Extraordinary Case Of Mike Berger

FOREWORD BY STAN LERNER: downtownster does not celebrate its first birthday until February, but I still feel compelled to post the TEN BEST downtownster blogs of 2009. And while I think all of our blogs have been great, these are the ones that readers read the most and gave us the highest level of props for writing. In the case of “The Extraordinary Case Of Mike Berger” the great Alec Silverman shines a bright light on one of the best human beings I’ve had the good fortune of calling my friend. The wine tastings are not as frequent as they were when this was first posted, but Mike Berger is better than ever.

<Click Here: To Buy Books By Stan Lerner> 

Stan Lerner, editor-in-chief and creator of Downtownster is a revered cohort for whom I am indebted to Mike Berger, the subject of this entry, for making possible our acquaintance.  Mr. Lerner has been googled over 1.2 million times; his blogs (articles for Downtownster and his satirical serial Downtown Oliver Brown) have around 2 million hits; he is a screenwriter receiving residuals in seeming perpetuity; he is published in hardcover as a novelist, a long-form satirist and a children’s book author.  I am honored that he invited me to be a guest contributor to this blog and, after much consideration concerning what form to proffer (e.g., an op-ed piece, a film review, a vignette, etc.), I found it “altogether fitting and proper” to pay homage to Mr. Berger. This piece however, strictly speaking, could be classified as a restaurant review.  The restaurant is an ad hoc wine bar and it is Mr. Berger’s one-man show.

On the north side of 9th Street between Hope and Flower – as any denizen of downtown knows – is the entrance to Ralphs Market.  Its manifestation on the cityscape was like an oasis created by a meteor.  At last, under one roof, downtown had a purveyor of some of the most essential trappings of civilization.  What too many apparently do not know is, that within this architecturally unimaginative space, like gleaming crystals in a geode, lay a treasure for wine enthusiasts unparalleled anywhere in Los Angeles.  On Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays between five and eight p.m., one can get both the best value and the best wines by-the-glass downtown.  For twelve hours a week, four nights of happy hours, if you will….  Don’t blink or you’ll miss out.  This is all because the store opened with an exceptional department manager.  You see, dear reader, with the advent of this civilization, like a gift from an extraterrestrial race, came a subtle, dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool service professional – a one-off, wine and spirits manager by the name of Mike Berger. That’s right, you read correctly, in Ralphs Market.
 

Part of what makes him seem like he dropped in from another planet is Continue reading

ROCK ‘N FISH-ROCKS

Foreword by Stan Lerner: so many readers have thanked me for turning them on to Rock ‘N Fish I’ve decided to put a banner up for the place and give this post one more run on the downtownster  front page! If you haven’t tried Rock ‘N Fish yet–go there and see what I’m talking about. I’ll be back in LA on the 20th and you can guess where you’ll find me eating dinner…  

Torn between readers who want stories about national topics and those who want to know what’s going on in the very happening Downtown LA always presents a conundrum for this writer. Balance being the key to most things in life and the fact that I’ve been desirous of writing about Rock ‘N Fish LA Live for a long time now—this one is for my people in my hometown The City of Angels. And for those readers abroad, you’re going to come to Los Angeles one day, so make a note: eat at Rock ‘N Fish LA live, you’re going to like it.

For the ultra faithful it could tickle your AEG bone that I’m writing about a dining establishment in the heart of LA Live given our stormy relationship, but this place is too good to throw out with the bathwater. And given that I’ve taken to eating at Rock ‘N Fish several days a week I wouldn’t want a Stan sighting to send the observer of such into shock. I should mention here that while most of the restaurants at LA Live are big corporate owned entities, Rock ‘N Fish is one of a chain of two, the original being a beach legend down in the South Bay.

So of all the restaurants in all of the places that I travel…It all started months ago when I ran into Eric / manager of Rock ‘N Fish…I’m leaving out the part about the hot publicist, but the story really begins with me sitting on the very nice patio, one of the best in Downtown, listening to some great rock ‘n roll, thus the name Rock ‘N Fish, and eating almost everything on the menu—not one thing that I wouldn’t order again. But before talking about the food I have to digress for a moment and say that Rock ‘N Fish LA Live is about more than food, Rock ‘N Fish LA Live is about community. All of LA Live combined has not made an effort equal to that of Rock ‘N Fish to be part of what’s going on Downtown and downtownster is all about supporting those that support us.

The food: Rock ‘N Fish much like another favorite restaurant of mine, Continue reading

ROCK ‘N FISH – ROCKS

Torn between readers who want stories about national topics and those who want to know what’s going on in the very happening Downtown LA always presents a conundrum for this writer. Balance being the key to most things in life and the fact that I’ve been desirous of writing about Rock ‘N Fish LA Live for a long time now—this one is for my people in my hometown The City of Angels. And for those readers abroad, you’re going to come to Los Angeles one day, so make a note: eat at Rock ‘N Fish LA live, you’re going to like it.

For the ultra faithful it could tickle your AEG bone that I’m writing about a dining establishment in the heart of LA Live given our stormy relationship, but this place is too good to throw out with the bathwater. And given that I’ve taken to eating at Rock ‘N Fish several days a week I wouldn’t want a Stan sighting to send the observer of such into shock. I should mention here that while most of the restaurants at LA Live are big corporate owned entities, Rock ‘N Fish is one of a chain of two, the original being a beach legend down in the South Bay.

So of all the restaurants in all of the places that I travel…It all started months ago when I ran into Eric / manager of Rock ‘N Fish…I’m leaving out the part about the hot publicist, but the story really begins with me sitting on the very nice patio, one of the best in Downtown, listening to some great rock ‘n roll, thus the name Rock ‘N Fish, and eating almost everything on the menu—not one thing that I wouldn’t order again. But before talking about the food I have to digress for a moment and say that Rock ‘N Fish LA Live is about more than food, Rock ‘N Fish LA Live is about community. All of LA Live combined has not made an effort equal to that of Rock ‘N Fish to be part of what’s going on Downtown and downtownster is all about supporting those that support us.

The food: Rock ‘N Fish much like another favorite restaurant of mine, Continue reading

PROVECHO

I was thinking about things to do Downtown on a Wednesday night—Jazz and Modern Mexican Food crossed my mind. Not as arbitrarily as it might sound given an encounter I was lucky enough to have with the lovely Lauren Brand at the June, Marketing Round Table.

“Lauren Brand, with Provecho and Remedy,” she stood and said. This introduction is part of what happens at the meeting put on by Hal Bastian and company—Downtown BID.

After the meeting I was sure to run into Lauren, and she was sure to inform me that I should take her up on an offer to visit Provecho for some Wednesday Night Jazz and Modern Mexican Cuisine. Somehow we snuck a Happy Hour in, which was more than enough to convince me to trust Lauren on her Wednesday night suggestion.

The story of Provecho really doesn’t start with all of this PR / blogging talk…It’s more of a love story that began when a young girl named Jill and a boy named Gabriel worked at a restaurant in Pasadena called Mi Piace—Jill went on to college, so did Gabriel. Jill graduated college and opened Café Citron, a tiny neighborhood place in Monrovia. Gabriel went on to become Chef Gabriel Morales…Then Jill and Gabriel got married.

It does not take a cognitive epiphany to understand that Jill and Gabriel were destined to open a restaurant—lucky for us downtownsters.

Provecho’s décor is what I call high end soothing. Yes, it has a hint of modern, which foreshadows Chef Gabriel’s take on cooking.

But before discussing the food at Provecho I must mention two of the best drinks of downtown libation lore. Continue reading

LET’S HYGGE!

I had walked by the location of the highly anticipated bakery countless times—the corner of 11th and Hope. Hoping (cheap play on words I know) that it would open soon and wondering why the hell a bakery was named Hygge. I know both of the owners, Ray and Helen, and could have asked about the strange name for a bakery, but like that pebble in my shoe that I do nothing about until I get home and put on my jamys (ok I don’t wear pajamas but…) I let it alone and endured the annoyance.

Then came the email from Ray inviting me and the rest of the neighborhood to a Grand Opening Day of Danish Pastry eating. I should point out here, for those that are not familiar with the corner of 11th and Hope that Hygge is at the base of Luma, where both Ray and Helen also live upstairs. This little shindig was packed and I did try a few delicious morsels, but to do a proper story I decided to wait until I could come back, sit down comfortably, and try all eighty creations that are baked up fresh daily…The arrangements were made! (not really that dramatic I just sent Ray a text)

What would a Stan Lerner blog be if I didn’t say something like, “Hey business owners that aren’t downtownsters or happen to be big corporations (AEG) that just want to exploit our ever growing density to make a buck—take note that a little locally owned bakery invited everyone in the neighborhood over for some FREE DANISH!!!” Okay, I’m on vacation in Vegas so I won’t go dark, but seriously Hygge joins with Bottega Louie in making the big guys look silly. Better product, better price, and owners that care about the community. And for some reason my friend April The Stripper, who is looking at my screen as I write this masterpiece, has just informed me that Hygge means: to hang out in Danish. Now if she would just go back to rubbing oil on my back and let me finish my blog, she would know that Ray did tell me this very fact…But that’s still a bit further along in the story.

So knowing that I have blood sugar as volatile as Mount Saint Helens, I invited Shannon to write this piece—allowing me to gorge on Danish and not worry about being too shaky to take notes. And to call 911 in case I went into some kind of shock…I didn’t want Ray or Helen to have to deal with this if I hit the floor. So think of this as a blog about the writing of a blog. Continue reading

Three Things To Miss Downtown

When it comes to Downtown , downtownster puts most of its effort into telling people what to do, but recently I’ve come across some what not to do’s. And with so many good choices Downtown I’d hate to see you waste your money on anything less than a great experience. SO BE WARNED!!!

Unhappy Hour At Chaya

About a month ago downtownster Shannon and myself stopped by Chaya Downtown to take a look around. The manager of the swank establishment asked us to come visit as his guest anytime. A couple of nights ago we took him up on his offer or at least what we thought was an offer.

“If you place your order in the next two minutes you’ll still get the Happy Hour price,” said the hostess.

“Classy,” I thought to myself. “And this place is dead,” I thought still further as I looked around at the not happening Happy Hour scene.

Shannon asked if the manager was there. We were informed that he was, but he was upstairs too busy doing paperwork to answer the phone. Apparently he didn’t realize that we were actually in the restaurant when giving this brush-off. Because about fifteen minutes later he was in the restaurant milling around—uncomfortably surprised to see us sitting.

I ordered the Tuna Melt and some Fish ‘n’Chips. The Tuna Melt, which was literally bite-sized, does not compete with Subway on its worst day. The Fish ‘n’ Chips were a soggy mess that seemingly came out of the frozen food section at Costco. Amazingly, our server was completely baffled when I asked for some vinegar—to give this cardboard concoction some taste. A few minutes later I was brought vinegar—not of the Apple Cider / malt variety, but of the clean your window ilk. Shannon had a sushi roll, which was unremarkable, and beer that was thankfully not skunked. This waste of time and calories totaled $25.86 plus tip. Seriously, with every restaurant in town offering Happy Hour, skip this one.

Fleming’s

If the Fish ‘n’ Chips served at Chaya for Happy Hour aren’t soggy and tasteless enough to make you never want to go to the UK—Flemings serves up the same Costco style frozen fare as a lunch special. So much oil went into my meal that OPEC had to raise its production for a week to make up for it. Thankfully, and I use this word dripping with sarcasm, the lack of taste one might find at Chaya was replaced by a freezer burned smoky flavor at Fleming’s. Continue reading

Bottle Rock Media Dinner Review

Upon entering the downtown Bottle Rock we were struck by stark modernity.  The room is made of cast concrete: bearing walls, interior walls and both cylindrical and square pillars supporting a twelve foot-high ceiling.  Straight ahead was a twenty-stool bar, half of which is dedicated to a show kitchen with pristine half-inch plate glass separating bar guests from the white-jacketed culinary staff.   The three-inch thick slab of bar top itself, as well as the low cocktail tables in the lounge and the bathroom counters, is made of a material we guessed could be the source of the wine bar’s name.  It is a sort of “bottle rock”.  This grey-based composite looks as though semi-precious stones are mixed in, such as tiger’s-eye, Lapis Lazuli and malachite but actually, it’s all recycled wine and beer bottles.  There are eighteen carefully chosen beer taps featuring several selections not even found at The Yardhouse. Continue reading

Hello Wine Lovers!

Hello wine lovers it has been  a few days since I have written. I was invited to the Los Angeles International Wine Competition.  The event was held at the Los Angeles County Fair grounds in one of the exhibition halls. The 50 plus judges were set into 5 and 6 person panels Judging started at 8:30 Wednesday morning. Wines were served according to panel order. This first panel consisted of 40 cabernets in the range of 1.00 dollar to 14.99 per bottle. Continue reading

New Kid on the Block: D-Town Burger Bar

The first time I noticed a little Burger Bar had opened on 6th and Spring was a few weeks ago. It was around 2am, and I was still out from a night on the town. How sad, my friends said, pointing to empty countertops, and empty booths. Reminiscent of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, a lone fry cook and cashier in 50’s diner style uniforms stared out at dark sidewalks from behind brightly backlit glass windows.

We spoke too soon. Three minutes later, we again stumbled past the D-Town Burger Bar and—the place was full.

Local bars were starting to let out, and packs of drunk-hungry pedestrians were scouring the streets for something greasy to take the edge off their buzz. Smoke rose up from the grill, as the cook got to work on burgers and fries. Three men walked in to place their orders, I could hear Chuck Berry playing as the door swung open and closed.

I wasn’t able to join them that evening, but I was intrigued. And I’ll never judge them so harshly again, I swear. So I made a point this afternoon to revisit our new kid on the block, D-Town Burger Bar and make a proper appraisal.

When I entered, my eyes were greeted by a floor full of black and white penny tiles, shiny red plastic seats, and a busty roller girl waitress figurine standing proudly at the door. Everything was spotless, shiny, and ‘new car’ clean. There was even a nostalgic (digital) jukebox, with an unfortunate “do not touch” sign on it.

There were four meal options on the illuminated menu sign on the wall. Continue reading